When the Europeans arrived in the area in the 1700s, the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois
Confederacy used this area as hunting grounds. In 1757, the Proprietary Council
of Pennsylvania sent Moravian missionary Christian Frederick Post to convince
the Seneca to join the British in the French and Indian War, but the Seneca
sided with the French. The English won the war and eventually purchased the
land from the Iroquois.
John Cook was the first permanent American settler. He arrived
in 1826 to determine the feasibility of building an east to west canal along
the Clarion River for
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John purchased 765 acres and settled here
with his wife and 10 children in 1828.
At the mouth of Tom's Run, present day
Cooksburg, John built his one story cabin and the first of many water-driven
sawmills. He worked his mills, logged
with oxen, rafted logs to Pittsburgh and also engaged in flatboat building
through the years.
John's son, Andrew, bought 36 acres from his father, then
gained the rest of his acreage when his father died in 1858. Anthony's industry
he built the original Cook Forest Inn for his men's living quarters. Anthony
erected three sawmills, one flouring mill, one planing mill, a boat scaffold,
several dwellings and a store. About 1870, he built the Cook Homestead at the
corner of land where Route 36 and River Road intersect. Many of the large homes
on River Road are still maintained by the Cook Family and descendents. After
Anthony's death, the business was managed under A. Cook Sons Company.
Forest Association formed in the 1920s to save the few areas of surviving old
growth timber. Early pioneers in this effort were M. I. McCreight, Theo
Wilson and John Nicholson. The Association, endorsed by national natural resource
groups and Governor Gifford Pinchot, raised $200,000.
Publicity such as the
following helped raise funds:
This Wood will become a forest monument, like those of the West, known not
only in Pennsylvania, but throughout the Country. The East possesses few scenes
more impressive than this magnificent area of primeval white pine, surrounded
by giant hemlocks and hardwoods. The venerable splendor of these trees is a
heritage for the future of the State. Many of them have lifted their heads
to the sunshine of more than two hundred summers and the largest of them were
here before the colonization of America..."
Money from the Association
helped the Commonwealth purchase 6,055 acres from A. Cook Sons Company in
1927 for $640,000. Cook Forest became the first Pennsylvania
State Park acquired to preserve a natural landmark.